Coal 5.53 3.87
Natural Gas 2.03 2.64
Farm & Forestry Products 9.25 3.24
Farm & Forestry Residues 7.55 2.65
good rule of thumb is that 1 gram (gm) of biomass = 3.5 kilocalories (kcal), 1 gm coal = 7 kcal, 1 gm oil = 10 kcal, and 1 gm natural gas = 13 kcal.9 There are about 7.33 barrels of oil per metric tonne, and 1 million cubic feet of natural gas weighs about 20.6 tonnes. Pulling all this together, the comparative lineup of possible fuel materials for the world is laid out in table 5.7.
Examining table 5.7, you can see that the energy value of the world's oil product is only about one-fifth the combined energy of the world's annual fuel material yield. In round numbers, it can be seen that each of the four fuel suits—oil, coal, gas, and biomass—offers comparable energy resources. Unfortunately, however, the trump suit is oil, and this is the one where we are weakest and the enemy is strongest. Oil is trump because, while all four suits can provide raw energy, only oil can currently provide energy in the liquid form necessary for powering practical motor vehicles and aircraft, and most desirable for driving ships and trains as well.
But what if the rules were changed so that oil was no longer trump? What if, as sometimes happens in bridge, the energy game were played with no trump suit, and all its four suits put on an equal footing? In that case, all of the four could be called upon to produce liquid transportation fuels. That sounds promising, but all of the commercial product of the existing coal, gas, and biomass sectors is already spoken for. To get net liquid fuel out of them, we would have to expand their production. Could we do that on the scale required to make a real difference? In war, as General Douglas MacArthur famously put it, there is no substitute for victory. Our goal needs to be to destroy OPEC, not just reduce its looting a bit at the margins. How much new fuel would we have to draw from our three strong suits in order to sink the oil cartel? Let's see.
While OPEC produces about 40 percent of the world's oil, it exports only about a third. Furthermore, of the 24 million barrels per day that OPEC exports in total (see table 5.1), the Saudis account for 9.1 million, which is roughly 12 percent of worldwide oil production. If we could replace those 9.1 million barrels with usable nonpetroleum liquid fuel, we could dictate terms to Saudi Arabia.
For example, one attractive option would to be to inform the Saudis that, in view of their past and ongoing misconduct (including oil price fixing, promotion of terrorism, damages to the World Trade Center, etc.), in the future, the whole of their oil export product would have to be sold to the United States government at $10 per barrel. They could accept these terms—or sit on their oil and go broke. Since we would have the required replacement fuel in hand, shutting down production would provide them with little leverage, so ultimately they would be forced to capitulate. At $10 per barrel, the Saudis could still make money selling oil, but they would be forced to expand production volume to the max. Having obtained the full, enlarged Saudi export product at $10 per barrel, the US government could then dump it on the world market at $30 per barrel. This would stabilize global oil prices at that level, save consumers worldwide trillions of dollars, and, incidentally, put about $200 million per day ($73 billion per year) into the US Treasury.
Such a move would decapitate OPEC and effectively bankrupt the prime promoters and paymasters of global terrorism. Throw in an extra 2.6 million barrels per day of substitute fuel, and we can shut down Iran as well. That would mean no money for Hezbollah or for the mad mullah's nuclear bomb program. Between those two accomplishments, most of our present strategic problems would be solved, so let's take that as our baseline plan. We need 11.7 million barrels per day of replacement fuel to pull it off. That comes out to one-sixth of the total world oil supply, or 0.54 billion tonnes per year.
Very well, so let's go back and take another look at table 5.7. Between coal, natural gas, and farm and forest products and residues, we are currently producing the energy equivalent of 12.3 billion tonnes of oil per year. To make up an oil shortfall of 0.54 billion tonnes (or less, since only 57 percent of each barrel of oil is actually used to make motor vehicle fuel) we would have to increase production across these other categories by a mere 4.4 percent.
This certainly could be done. The only issue is whether we can put the power game on no-trump rules by actually converting coal, natural gas, and biomass into their energy equivalent in usable liquid fuel. In point of fact, we can. No Manhattan Project will be required to discover how. The chemical knowledge required to do it is already quite well established, being hundreds—and in some cases thousands—of years old. All we need to do is make alcohol.
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